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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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Is Learning Obsolete?


When I began working in learning and development many years ago, we didn’t call it learning and development, we called it training. But the word training became unfashionable – it suggested something directive, something given, rather than received. Over time, Training Managers became Learning and Development Managers. 

But did anything really change? I’ve been wondering today, if there’s not so much misunderstanding about the word learning, that we should stop using that too.

Let me explain, by recounting a moment from my accident prone childhood.

One day, whilst my mother was ironing in the kitchen, the telephone rang. Now, as I was brought up in the dark ages, 
when phones were attached to walls, and there was only one phone in the house, this meant a trip to the hall. Before she rushed off to answer the phone, Mum, for the millionth time, emphasised that the iron was very hot, and reminded me not to touch it.

Now I should emphasise that I wasn’t a toddler at this stage – just a youngish child of perhaps seven years (I don’t remember exactly). From my earliest days I’d been told that the iron was hot and that I must never touch it because I’d get burnt. You could argue that I’d been ‘trained’ never to touch the iron. You might even argue that by receiving this message repeatedly, I’d learnt not to touch it and I’d learnt that irons are hot.

In fact, I’d learnt absolutely nothing.

Yes, I’d been told, over and over, that the iron was hot. But now I was curious. How hot was hot? What would it feel like?  

So I touched it, in order to find out.

Which led to a moment of discovery

We don’t make learning happen by giving people information, even if we do repeat that information a lot. Learning, real learning, happens when we discover things for ourselves. That’s why we’re passionate about developing experiential training activities that provide a safe (no hot irons!) opportunity for participants to both test the effectiveness of their current behaviours, and identify for themselves areas for improvement. That’s why we’re passionate about the learner’s discoveries, not the trainer’s knowledge.

Next time you’re putting some training together, forget about Learning, and think instead about Discovery. And imagine the difference you could make to both people and organisations as a Discovery and Development Manager. 

As always, I'd love your feedback, thoughts and opinions on this blog so please do get in touch.

Rod Webb

One Response

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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